New Virginia Energy Plan Ramps Up Commitment to Carbon-Free Future

The Northam administration’s 2018 Virginia Energy Plan is the environmental movement’s dream come true. The administration is going “all in” for solar power, offshore wind energy, distributed energy resources, energy efficiency, and electric vehicles. Under the plan, Virginia won’t be as aggressive as California, which has set a goal of a 100% carbon-free electric grid by 2045, but it would follow the same trajectory.

The Virginia Energy Plan embraces the same carbon-reduction goals incorporated into the 2018 Grid Transformation and Security Act (SB 966) but treats them as a starting point. The plan calls for an overhaul of the regulatory process and state priorities to advance goals in five broad areas:

  • Solar and onshore wind. Of the 5,000 MW of solar and wind resources deemed in the public interest under Senate Bill 966, 3,000 MW should come from solar and onshore wind. Specific proposals include expanding corporate clean energy offerings; enhancing collaboration on the siting of large solar and wind facilities; and expanding the net metering program, the power purchase agreement program, and the community solar program. The Energy Plan recommends increasing the Commonwealth’s renewable energy procurement target to 16% by 2022.
  • Offshore wind. The Energy Plan calls for building the 12 MW offshore wind demonstration project — two test turbines to show how well novel designs can withstand hurricane conditions — and then to develop 2,000 MW of offshore wind potential by 2028.
  • Energy efficiency. The plan calls for increasing utility-funded energy-efficiency programs to $100 million per year for Dominion Energy and $15 million per hear for Appalachian Power Co., as well as expanding state-sponsored energy-efficiency programs. The Commonwealth should set a goal of reducing retail electricity consumption by 10% by 2022 (using 2006 as a baseline) and consumption in state buildings by 20%.
  • Energy storage. Recognizing that intermittent wind and solar energy sources pose threats to the stability and reliability of the electric grid, the Energy Plan discusses pumped hydroelectric storage, lithium-ion batteries, and solid-state batteries. However, the plan makes no specific recommendations on which technologies or approaches should be adopted.
  • Electric vehicles. The Energy Plan calls for promoting the deployment of electric vehicles and using their battery storage capabilities to shift electric load to times that better align with solar and wind output. The state should adopt the Advanced Clean Cars program, develop a comprehensive electric-vehicle transportation plan, and set targets for building an electric-vehicle charging infrastructure.

The Energy Plan provides no estimate of what the sum total of these initiatives would cost nor who would pay for them. While the plan does address the challenge of matching solar and wind output with daily electric load, it does not explore how the system would hold up under rare-but-recurring extreme weather events such as hurricanes or the Polar Vortex.  The document can best be seen as a roadmap for where the Northam administration and its allies in the environmental movement would like to take the state.

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12 responses to “New Virginia Energy Plan Ramps Up Commitment to Carbon-Free Future

  1. Who would pay for them? Silly person – WE will pay for them, with a nice profit margin for the utilities and their suppliers, which is then shared with the political class through healthy campaign spending. Risk to the shareholders? Fuhgeddaboutit.

    Since the first one these have been ideological documents. And the true ideologues are not satisfied, as if they can be.

    http://bluevirginia.us/2018/10/gov-northams-2018-virginia-energy-plan-generally-focuses-on-the-right-areas-but-is-far-too-weak-timid-also-ditch-the-fracked-gas-pipelines

  2. There is one aspect of this that is perhaps not well recognized and that is that the State and the localities are owners and operations of quite a few buildings, facilities, and vehicles.

    Take schools and school buses for instance, probably one of the more energy-intensive operations in the State. Imagine electric school buses and school HVAC and lighting systems running off of solar during the day – and off the grid at night at a much lower use when the buildings are not occupied.

    No Gov can permanently change the longer term energy trajectory, they can only change the direction which then can be changed back by the next Gov.

    But at some point, will we see somewhere in Va… a school bus fleet that gets converted to electric and/or a school or school system that converts roofs to solar?

    My guess is that if the State offers a pilot grant – some school will do it.

    That might well be the end of it especially if it is a fail – or it might be the start of change.

  3. I started writing up an article, but Jim beat me to the punch:

    GovNortham has proposed an agressive electrification plan for Virginia featuring leadership in off shore wind development and promoting (presumably subsidizing) electric vehicles.

    As a New Jersey transplant, this is déjà vu all over again for me. The basic concept is, although the state may not be able to attract private sector jobs, we can view the utility sector as a business that New Jersey, oops I mean Virginia, controls. Therefore, we can mandate the construction of power plants and related businesses to create jobs.

    When this happened in New Jersey in the 1980’s and 1990’s, it was coal-fired power plants that were mandated. So I admit to being less concerned about environmental consequences with the proposed new “Virginia Push” as some articles call it.

    As a Prius owner, I follow car technology quite closely. Electric vehicle sales are mostly in California, probably approaching 60% of electric vehicles sales in Ca. for calendar year 2018. This is accomplished by giving Plug-in vehicle owners financial credits from the State as well as free solo driver access to the HOV/HOT lanes. What’s also happening is that the massive Federal credits ($7500 per vehicle) are soon expiring for the best selling brands (Tesla, GM). California is considering upping the state credits to compensate. Given that plug-in vehicles have not yet taken hold, I personally expect the incoming democratic Congress may extend the federal credits. California also mandates the sale of electric vehicles, which necessitates that the auto manufacturers offer these cars at lower prices to get the sales needed to avoid penalties.

    Keywords here are “push”, “mandates”, and “subsidies” to make it happen as envisioned. Open your wallets.

  4. One more time. Are the environmentalists engaged in fraud? I keep reading that renewable energy is cheaper than fossil fuel-based energy going forward. But I also keep reading that we need to pay more for renewable energy and that there needs to be mandates. What is the truth?

    • “One more time. Are the environmentalists engaged in fraud? I keep reading that renewable energy is cheaper than fossil fuel-based energy going forward. But I also keep reading that we need to pay more for renewable energy and that there needs to be mandates. What is the truth?”

      The truth is that renewable energy has, by and large, been one long and sustained CON GAME over the past 50 years, since the late 1960s. The CON GAME has been in overdrive since the 1979 Three Mile Island incident, and continues unabated.

      In the process of playing this CON GAME, our Federal Government has wasted hundred of billions, indeed trillions, of dollars. The collateral damage, including unforeseen consequences, of this CON GAME is beyond calculation.

      When the history of this CON GAME era is written, the good historian will say that our Federal Government by the last quarter of the 20th century had been designed, built, and operated, by those who built it and run it primarily as a vehicle to hand out money and public favors to special interests in return for the donations of money and votes by those special interests that kept those politicians, and their political parties in power, including their own private enrichment and advantage.

      Hence, too, the elites get richer, and rest of Americans get the shaft, falling ever further behind, and impotent.

  5. I do note that up Fredericksburg way, I am seeing plug-in car chargers at the Wa Wa service stations…

    I’m sorta like TMT though – are renewables being promoted as cleaner or cheaper or both?

    I know more than a few folks with the Toyota Prius but very few who have plug-in versions of any brand.

    I know of almost no one who is stand-alone off grid except for one blogger guy I follow in Southwest Texas near Big Ben park who has a solar set-up with about 10 12 volt batteries that carries some basic needs.. lights, a swamp cooler and a chest freezer.. and even then there are days he has to run his generator to keep the batteries charged.

    Could it be that at this point – it’s just not economic for residential and not even for utilities unless they have everything they need to keep the grid up when wind/solar can’t?

    I can see where the average rate payer – and I presume the SCC would take a dim view of all ratepayers having to pay more to have some on the grid use solar and renewables.

  6. Some forms of renewable, solar for example, are getting quite affordable. Land-based wind is also coming down in cost. Both still benefit from tax subsidies. But they do not run all the time, meaning they have to be paired with more reliable forms of generation and then things get interesting. You build generation that sometimes sits there, and that is bloody expensive. Battery storage is coming but is also high cost right now and still dicey. In my view, anybody who tells you renewable can do it all and no other forms of generation are needed is indeed engaging in fraud at worst (or magical thinking at best.) California style mandates produce California prices.

    But a subset of voters eat this up and won’t vote for anybody who dares question The Revealed Truth.

  7. I never thought that renewables could do 24/7 but I did think that at the times that renewables are available – that they could be used instead of other generation – and if renewables were cheaper/less polluting – then it would be a win-win.

    Picture an island where all of their electricity comes from a diesel generator at 3-4 times the cost of typical grid electricity. If you could, at some times, use less expensive generation – then why not? You could always fall back to the diesel but for those times you could use solar/wind -you’d save money.

    If you could do that on an island with a diesel generator – surely you could do that on the mainland with a natural gas generator.

    No?

  8. It’s hard to get a handle on renewable economics, becuase we do not get the data, but we can say Dominion seems to feel utility scale solar is profitable to them. Dominion could possibly build on-shore wind, not in Virginia, but nearby in the Appalacian mountains of WV, PA, MD, where all the (thousands?) of wind turbines are located, but Dominion does not seem to want to do so. Obviously the push for off-shore wind (expensive) relates to the potential business opportunity for Hampton Roads, as opposed to inherent interest wind energy.

    If it was me, what I’d do, is get rid of the car tax, which is a huge deterrent to new car sales especially more expensive green cars really get soaked. So we basically have to untax plugins if we want to sell them, but I say just get fair tax on all cars, and let the whole auto market improve here.

  9. If the plan was considered “a dream come true” by environmental groups, I would say they were uniformed about the economic consequences of where our current energy policy is leading us.

    First of all, we do not need more generation added by our utilities in Virginia. The load growth for electricity and traditional uses of gas is flat in Virginia over the next 15 years, even with increases in population and economic activity. A coalition of data centers wrote the SCC and said don’t let the utilities tell you that data centers will cause a need for more generation in Virginia. Increased energy efficiency in computers and related technologies are reducing energy use faster than new data centers are being built. The primary source of recent load growth in Virginia will be stable or declining in the future. Any extra electricity we might need is easily supplied by the surplus in PJM.

    All of the programs supported by the new energy bill and apparently supported by the state energy plan, solar, wind, energy efficiency, etc. are all means to increase utility profits by putting these activities in the rate base. This substantially increases the cost of energy compared to providing the same outcome using independent providers. We are creating a utility welfare program at the expense of the families and businesses in Virginia. We need to have financially healthy utilities, but not at the expense of our state economy.

    Energy efficiency using non-utility providers and offshore wind obtained through an affordable power purchase agreement will be much cheaper for Virginia residents than refurbishing the nuclear units, for example.

    Solar is less expensive than new gas-fired units, especially with their lifetime fixed costs compared to the risk of rising gas prices. However, it makes more sense to have direct to customer power purchase agreements or customer-installed units rather than utility built facilities that ratepayers must repay 3-4 times the cost for.

    This gives each customer the ability to decide what makes sense for them rather than burdening all of the ratepayers in order to provide more profit to the utilities. We need to create a way for our utilities to prosper by serving the needs of their customers not just by increasing their energy costs.

    There seems to be a misunderstanding about the variability of renewables versus their reliability. Studies have shown that in areas of relatively high penetration of renewables, those facilities are more reliable than baseload power plants. Although variable, solar and wind output can be predicted with a fair degree of accuracy a week in advance and an excellent degree of accuracy 30-60 minutes in advance. Appropriate changes can be made by the system operator to maintain a high level of reliability. When a large nuclear, gas, or coal facility has an unforced outage, this presents a much more difficult problem for system operators. Suddenly, 1000 MW can be lost to the system in an instant. That is why we spend a great deal of money to keep units in reserve that do not generate any power. This can be reduced with higher levels of renewables.

  10. Why aren’t the Enviros talking about this? https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2018/10/large-scale-wind-power-has-its-down-side/

    This is the type of discussion and debate that normally occurs with real science as scientists continually challenge prior conclusions. But when Climate Change becomes religion, it doesn’t occur.

    • TMT –

      That is a fine article written by the Harvard Gazette that you reference.

      In fact, those shortcomings of dense wind farms highlighted in that article have been known and predicted for years, including on this blog.

      But the truth is that “no one in, or connected to, the business” wanted to talk about those obvious shortcomings. To expose these obvious truths would threaten their financial stake in “the business.” So these “experts” hid these shortcomings from public view. This is why “experts” can never be trusted.

      Hence, too, my earlier assertion that:

      “The truth is that renewable energy has, by and large, been one long and sustained CON GAME over the past 50 years, since the late 1960s.”

      These sorts of “highly promoted falsehoods” are ubiquitous today. In fact these “highly promoted falsehoods” now rule our society in many ways. And threaten to destroy it. If you do not believe that, then consider that:

      Likely half of all Americans believe that Bren Kavanaugh is now, or has often been in his past, a drunken rapist.

      Why?

      Because their leaders, the experts, find it in their private interest to push this lie onto the American people. And many of those citizens believe their lies given their corrupt education, or lack of any education at all, despite its cost going through the roof. That system too is build on accumulated frauds. And it is becoming increasingly clear that these frauds will be our undoing.

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